“A Brand is a persons gut feeling about a product, service or organization.”
You are a small or medium business with a great product.
If you sell to people you have a brand, if you know it or not, like it or not.
Most likely you hired a graphic designer to design assets for you. If they were a good designer, they asked you all kinds of questions about colors, layouts, and styles. If they were really good they maybe even asked you about what people should feel when looking at it.
And while the visual expression of your brand is important, and even one of the main points of contact for your customers, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The Purpose of a Brand Strategy
In short, a brand strategy is a long-term plan for your brand and its expression in all channels to achieve a specific business goal.
Brand strategy defines the expression of communication for your business. But contrary to just a creative campaign, it is filtered through hard business objectives that make an impact on your growth. It’s the underlying foundation from which you build your brand and set the future of your company in motion.
At its best, brand strategy is able to increase revenue, attract investors and grow your company organically.
From this foundation you are able to define sales tools, messaging, corporate identity, visual expression(s), Customer Relationship Management, Product Naming and even pricing.
What Goes Into a Successful Brand Strategy?
If you are ordering a brand strategy done, the end result is usually a strategy document. But how you get there is a bespoke process.
Here’s what should be included in the process should you ever request one to be created for your company and brand.
While most agencies employ creative, smart and intelligent people, you as the client know your company best.
The brand strategy process should be collaborative not prescriptive. Discovery meetings are there to tease out what exactly the need for your business is.
How does your business work? What is your MVP/UVP/KVP? What are your current pain-points?
Only then an agency can start to formulate an analysis. Without discovery there is no strategy.
Goal-Setting & Metrics
For a strategy to succeed you have to establish measurable results that have to be achieved. This allows you to measure the effectiveness of your strategy, and your agency partner. It also gives you a direct connection to your return on investment. It allows you to see the measurable impact in your bottom-line.
If you pump money into something as expensive as a brand strategy, you are entitled to a return on that money, and it has to be measurable.
Competitor audits are an integral part of your brand strategy. The agency should research both the vertical and horizontal space your business operates in. What are your direct competitors doing right now? What are the trends? What are other companies doing across the world?
All of these points will inform both the strategic as well as tactical tools that are available to you and the agency to hit the chosen target.
Oftentimes we also offer an industry audit to strengthen the foundation of our analysis and future-proof the result against fluctuations and upcoming future trends and roadblocks.
Target Audience & Personas
All the audits in the world will not help you if you do not know your “ideal client”. And while a general target audience definition is useful for media buy and picking channels, as a brand you have to go deeper than that.
Who exactly are you talking to?
What kind of income do they have? What is their age? What did they have for breakfast? etc.
Once you are able to narrow down your ideal client, you can tailor messaging directly to them. This is not just a tactic, but you are actively seeking to empathize with your client. Establish that your brand understands their needs and wants. Why is your product or service a perfect fit for them at this time?
Make your brand a bespoke solution to their pain-points.
Once you have the above your agency should pick the channels through which to communicate to your ideal clients.
Not everyone experiences advertising the same, and your clients probably congregate strongest in particular places. You have to discover these places and engage them on their turf. You have to find out where your ideal client spends most of their time. Is it Facebook? LinkedIn? TV? Or the local pet store?
Filtering through everything that was established previously, your agency should now be able to establish tailored tactics to reach your business goal.
Is it a re-brand? A UX/UI refresh of your website? A social media campaign?
Not every tactic will be conductive in reaching your business objective. Unfortunately a lot of agencies jump directly into discussing tactics without the filters that could allow them to pick the most effective solution.
Pay close attention to agencies that go straight for solutions without an analysis/diagnosis. The longer you are able to stay in diagnosis-mode, the lower your risk is to fail in the execution, and as a medium or small business, you really don’t need any more risk.
Brand Essence & Expression
Branding is like a puzzle, only if you have all the pieces can you see the whole.
At the end of the process your agency should be able to formulate a Brand Essence. The brand essence is the culmination of your brand strategy. It should start with an elevator pitch of your brand, formulated to hit home with your ideal client. On top of this the agency should be able to formulate your brand’s expression off and online. This includes things like tone of voice, mood and visuals.
We are not talking asset production here. Rather the brand essence is a framework of communicating and connecting with your brand’s customers that can be used to easily and efficiently create marketing assets that are consistent and express the brand.
In a way this can be thought of as a template, executable by both external or internal teams, at any point and autonomously.
It’s teaching a man to fish instead of giving him one.
What To Look Out For
Some agencies do not follow a process and do not involve the client in any way. There is no guarantee that the solutions suggested are aligned with what you have in mind. You might run the risk of long adjustment-cycles and endless back-and-forth’s with the agency.
Similarly if an agency immediately jumps to suggesting tactics, you should be wary. How can they know what will work without finding out first? It’s like giving a patient medication without diagnosing the disease first. At best it will be ineffective and at worst it can even be harmful.
Additionally beware of vague goals and soft metrics like “increased brand awareness”. Remember you are entitled to a return on your investment, so you need to know if the solutions are working and by how much.
Of course branding and marketing isn’t an exact science but there are enough key performance indicators that you should be able to directly measure and influence.
With this in mind you should be good to go hiring an agency to solve your business problem.
Why not try us?
Also published on Medium.